A few days ago a fellow writer noticed me sharing “Experimenting on His Words” in a Facebook group and asked if I would be open to sharing a guest post. I thought it was a fabulous idea, and we agreed to exchange posts. Watch for my Testimony on his blog soon as well! Enjoy “The Moments I Knew” from Daniel Christensen:
Church members can often point to a singular experience when they “knew” it was true. Maybe it was the knowledge that God existed, or knowing that the Book of Mormon was true, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
I never had that experience. I’ve actually had thousands of them.
We as humans are good at a few things and horrible at others. One thing that we reeeeally need to work on is remembering. God understands this better than anyone, and especially knows this of me. In moments of weakness, I forget about the moments that I “know” the truth, yet choose to do the opposite. It’s really frustrating.
I imagine this is true of everyone. That’s why I think we are given so many reminders. I’ll tell you of my most recent reminder. I listened to Tad Callister’s talk about the Book of Mormon and it hit me particularly hard. He asked logical questions about the origins of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s involvement. I normally am a little apprehensive about trying to “prove” certain things within the gospel because I had always felt that it was not a logical matter, but a spiritual one. I realized, however, that some people need that, and at certain times in my life, I’ve needed a logic to back up the spiritual claims made as well.
It’s not like I’m constantly asking myself, “Is the Book of Mormon True?”, but it is nice to have some assurances once in awhile. As I was reading, I came across an oft-quoted passage, 1 Nephi 3:7, which says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
I’ve known this scripture since I was a little kid, but this time I focused on the “accomplish” part. I don’t recall the other authors in the Book of Mormon using that phrase-ology. So I went hunting, and sure enough, Nephi uses this exact phrase another 4 times. The other 418 pages of the Book of Mormon show no other such reference. Zero. Would Joseph Smith have been able to keep that phrase just within first and second Nephi and never use anything similar in the rest of the Book? To me, the answer was a resounding ‘No”, and it was just the latest moment that I “knew” the Book of Mormon was true.
These experiences can happen quite frequently if we are able to recognize them. They add just one more time in our lives that we can look back on and remember, that at that moment, we “knew”.
Below is my submission to Middle-Aged Mormon Man’s International Hug-A-Convert Day Essay Contest. After I submitted this essay, I fell 10 feet backwards down an attic ladder, breaking my back. I am healing rapidly and will be back to blogging very soon!
Last year when I commented on a post of Middle-Aged Mormon Man, he mentioned I should write out my story for his “International Hug-A-Convert Day,” I told him I wasn’t quite ready. This year has been crazy and amazing and I am late in submitting this; but here it goes.
The first time I remember knowing that there was a God, and Jesus Christ and a part I felt inside of me (only lately did I begin to understand the Holy Spirit); was when my divorced mother allowed me to attend a local Sunday school. We were singing “This Little Light of Mine.” I was about 5. I felt the Lighte of His Love. But my childhood remained full of darkness.
My parents divorced when I was four, my father was a loud atheist, my mom considered herself Christian, and wanted us to decide about religion for ourselves. To help facilitate that; she took us to several different churches. My younger brother and I learned not to share our church experiences with our dad during his weekend visitations.
When I was about 7, a friend of my mom’s was babysitting my brother and I and asked my mom if she could take us to church with
her. She attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The memories that I have of that day were that I had to wear my Easter dress because it was the only dress I had that was long enough, and I got a spanking for saying a bad word on the way home from the service.
That was my last experience with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until my marriage of 22 years ended. During my marriage, while raising our 3 children, we attended a Nazarene church, then I began to explore Wicca & Paganism, then Buddhism and Gnostic Christianity; I was searching for answers. No matter where I looked, I didn’t find them.
While I was in the middle of my divorce, I met an unlikely missionary. After being introduced by several friends several different times, we attempted to date. True to my past, I attempted to seduce him. He attempted to teach me about chastity. Both of us failed in our attempts.
Rick was the man I dated, and fell in love with his stories of a God I never had imagined. Something called “Priesthood,” and he referred to Jesus Christ as a Brother and a Friend.
His pain had removed him from activity in the Church of the Lord that he loved. His own marriage, sealed in the temple 29 years previous, had ended in divorce. It was hard for me to understand his faith or associate it with a church he never attended. But he was quick to point out he considered himself a Latter-Day Saint.
As we agreed that we would lose our friendship if we attempted to continue to date, he promised to me that he would be my friend forever. I had no idea, then, what forever meant.
During the summer of 2010, I received a message on a social network that lead to me meeting the woman my oldest son had married and abandoned 3 years previous. I was also privileged to meet her mother, a Latter-Day Saint and our identical twin granddaughters, shortly before their second birthday.
Without me or my family knowing; my oldest son had married, impregnated & abandoned this young woman. Her mother was helping her raise the children my son had never met. The stories of my son and her daughter pulled Mary and I together. To me, this woman was indeed a Saint in so many ways and she welcomed me with love into her family.
I was disabled, on a meager income, divorced and with no place to call home. Friends across the country began to invite me to stay a week or a day, so I left everything and everyone I knew behind and began to travel.
It was a year and a half full of traveling the country running from a life that I no longer had, and searching for eternal answers. During my first trip across the country, I took a wrong turn and ended up in front of the Twin Falls, Idaho Temple. I parked my car and took photos. It was the most beautiful building I had ever felt.
Felt. I felt this building. It felt light. Brighter than any light I have ever felt. I felt close to God and Christ. I felt the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know much about Temples at the time, but I did remember Rick saying that they weren’t open to the public. I didn’t even try to go in, but said a quick prayer, took some photos, and went along my way thanking God for checking in on me.
These types of incidents happened so much in my travels, I began to feel like either The Church or Christ, was following me.
On March 6, 2013, I was at my bottom: homelessness, depression and bad relationship choices got the end of me. I got on my knees on the cold wooden floor of an abandoned attic and asked my Heavenly Father how I could become closer to Christ.
I was answered with the immediate impression that I was being commanded to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I called Mary, “How do I get Missionaries to come to where I am?”
She marveled at my testimony and my faith; I asked her what she meant by “testimony.” Not ten minutes passed after I hung up with her, and I received a phone call from Missionaries in my area.
During the chaotic time of my repentance, I realized just how many people on social networks followed my activities. I prayed to know if I should close my accounts and look for different writing venues.
The Holy Spirit witnessed to me that I needed to be even louder about my conversion and about my faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ than I had been in my sin. That would be a challenge.
The first few posts I wrote in my new blog about my testimony went over well. Those who ventured a cursory gander were even more than polite in their comments to me.
I was still concerned, and prayed to know if blogging or other social networks were the proper use of my testimony. I heard my answers loudly when I attended the “Hastening the Work” broadcast at my local Ward Meetinghouse in June 2013.
Over the past year I have learned some hard lessons about leaning not unto mine own understanding. I have also learned a lot about patience.
In my first 14 months as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have had the opportunity to attend services in 11 Wards and 2 Branches in 7 Stakes. I am a woman of many Wards.
I was humbled to have received my own Endowments in May 2014 at the Seattle, Washington Temple. I currently blog at http://SlightelyMormon.org. I am working on a book of poetry and prose from the first year of my conversion. My life is more blessed than I could ever imagine.
I was born into a family that appreciated music. Everyone played something or sang, or both. On family trips, no matter who we were travelling with; the music was always cranked loud and everybody sang.
As a small child, I loved singing with both my mother and father. My little brother grew into a fabulous bass voice when he matured. Together we enjoyed playing with harmonies.
Although my parents divorced when I was very small, music was a constant in both of their households. I remember watching the Osmond Show as a little girl and thinking Marie was country like my mom, and Donny was rock and roll, like my dad.
My dad was stuck mainly in the 50s and 60s with his rock and roll. Elvis was a favorite with both of my parents. A fact I found curiously entertaining as a young girl witnessing their differences. I couldn’t imagine them listening to music together, but I listened to the same songs in each of their homes.
My mom loved country music. Tammy Wynette taught me how to spell the troubles that my family was experiencing with so many others in the early 1970s.
My own musical tastes followed both of my parents as a child. I was often seen and heard dancing and singing around my parents’ homes to whatever they had on.
My first personal music collection began on 8-track tapes. I received a player and a gift certificate for 4 tapes at a local music store on my 10th Christmas. I picked out ABBA, Steve Miller Band, Jim Croce & The Carpenters.
As I grew into a teen, I soon left my school choir performances behind and began performing guest vocals with bands who were made up of friends, and a ID that said I was 20 years older than I was. I loved music. I loved to dance and sing.
My personal music collection expanded to include every type of rock, hard rock and heavy metal. I also enjoyed any and every alternative or female artist. A few country songs drifted into my collection, but the majority was on the very hard side.
When my children were young, I tried to encourage their musical interests. My oldest son took up a genre of music that I had actually attempted to keep out of our home when he was a child. He is currently pursuing a career in the Southern California Rap/Hip Hop music scene.
My second son took up the guitar, bass guitar and vocals. As an adult he has experimented with other instruments as well.
My youngest child, my daughter, took up the violin at age 8 and fell in love. A child born with perfect pitch; she has a beautiful voice that only falters as much as her confidence.
With all the music in my life, I was looking forward to dancing when I was invited to my first Mid-Singles LDS dance. It was even a theme: 50s.
It was late spring, I had recently been baptized. When I went through my music collection during my repentance and baptismal times; I was unforgiving. Any lyrics that encouraged feelings in me that were not Gospel-centered were deleted off of my hard drive.
I had replaced much of my music with young adult LDS downloads from LDS.org. A Sister teaching the Young Women gave me a CD. I also listened to Gospel country music. Even though many of the Gospel ideas within them were erroneous to my beliefs; praising God was much better than traveling down an audio Highway to Hell.
When I entered the dance at the Stake Center building, I was surprised at both the music playing and the atmosphere. It was completely contradictory to the Standards of Youth card I had come to carry in my wallet. The lights were all darkened to the point I couldn’t see people’s faces well and the music was more than a little on the “racy” side, and only a few 50s songs. The DJ was a young person who was not a member of the church.
As the lyrics of the music began to disturb me more and more; I escaped into the foyer to read The Book of Mormon that was placed there. Having come with a group, I couldn’t leave. But I wanted to.
When I inquired about the music, I was told that no dances have LDS music. No one dances to any type of Gospel music. All dances have popular music. I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
I FEEL the lyrics in music. I am a writer. I HEAR the words. I FEEL the emotion in the strains of the music. When a song speaks of sinful actions or emotions that are not in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ; I have the privilege of feeling them.
I used to enjoy those sensations. The evil, just a little bit…. But as an endowed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have NO DESIRE to feel that way again. EVER.
That does not mean that I do not enjoy dancing with my husband. Dancing is still one of my favorite activities. It is the music choice to dance to that is my issue.
My dear husband, a fantastic musician, is currently grappling with my music situation. I long to be able to procure a baritone saxophone for him. Music without words may be a workable option.
For now… we will dance to the Gospel music from my stereo at home.
It began sooner than I anticipated: Last week, I invited my best friend to join a new church friend and myself to a mid-older singles event.
It was just a little bbq behind a local meetinghouse, but it was where people first assumed I had been baptized by my best friend.
They didn’t know just how wrong they were.
Truth be told; I was expecting their assumptions. I expect many more people to assume the same thing. So, before the world jumps to the conclusion that my best friend converted and baptized me, I would like to tell my side of the story, and expose just how much of a misnomer that assumption would be.
I was introduced to Rick, Richard Alexander Larsen Sr., through several people on several different occasions. He became my best friend after we had both experienced a life event neither one of us had ever imagined: divorce.
Mine was after 22 years of marriage, 3 children and 3 grandchildren. His was after 27 years of marriage 6 children and 14 years of surviving stage IV renal cell carcinoma.
Neither of us were involved in the church at that time.
I would learn of his church history through his words. But I felt his anger at God.
Our histories regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were nearly opposite: I had once attended sacrament service with a friend of my mother’s when I was about 7 years old; He had been born into the light. His family were pioneers in the church, he descended by blood and by Priesthood from Zera Pulsipher & Clarence Larsen. He knew God and our Savior on a personal level. I did not.
We talked about God, Jesus, and spirituality quite constantly. His father and step-mother shared scripture passages with both of us through long phone conversations as well as email messages.
I thought I knew about God; but I did not understand Richard’s faith.
But I am getting ahead of myself a bit. When I met Rick, he was in a very dark period of his life. Many people on the outside, and some in his own family, assumed that he had embraced the darkness that appeared to be surrounding him. However, I saw a strange light within him. I was drawn to that light.
He confused, angered and frustrated me.
The intimacy defined by the touch of his forehead upon mine, sweeter than any kiss; left this former teenage mother confused and at times, in despair.
Here was a man who would tell me I was physically beautiful, lovingly call me a spiritually a child, and at the same time say that he also considered me very intelligent! I proceeded to misunderstand his every word.
He appeared extremely attracted to me, but yet did everything within his earthly power to resist acting upon those feelings.
It was at this point he made a promise to me, to be my friend forever.
My heart was broken. I went searching for answers in the homes of my friends across the country as I traveled and explored the country and the people that I love.
This was October 10, 2010, at 10:10. It was a very binary moment.
I did trust God. I put my life in God’s hands as I traveled the country alone. First by train, then by car. First completely alone, only Christ by my side (I prayed constantly); then, in May 2011, my service dog and constant companion, Athena Brooke, joined my travels. Anyone who has ever had a constant companion in a canine knows that there is more of a connection between “dog” and “God” than dyslexia. I swear He communicated through her on several occasions! (but that is a story for another post at another time).
On several occasions, through my travels, (to the complete and utter confusion of many of our family
members and friends) Rick and I spent time together. He would have an extra couch, or tent, and Athena and I would hang out with him and his dogs, until once again my heart would shatter for what I could not create from our friendship and I would resume my travels. I resumed my search.
In February of this year I finally reached the bottom, and finally started asking God some pretty intense questions. In answer I was impressed to resume the work on my genealogy in earnest, as well as to download the Book of Mormon. But, as soon as I formulated the idea that I may want to get baptized, demons from hell were unleashed against me.
My spiritual conversion could ONLY happen alone.
During most of the time leading up to my baptism, our communication was very restrained.
Not by me, as I was flooding his phone with texts and questions, knowing he knew the answers through the scripture better than anyone I knew. He had shared scripture stories with me for years; whereas I had never read the scriptures myself until this year.
But he was in a dark place, fighting depression and the demons that surrounded him.
When I messaged Rick, asking him if he thought I should be baptized; his answer (in spite of the chuckle I could FEEL on the other side), was a simple “if YOU think you should be.”
After that, in the midst of attacks from every son of Satan; I prayed that God would show me the true church and my path.
At this point in time, on the 6th of March, I silently wished that it had nothing to do with “Rick’s” church.
God knows me, He knows my heart, and I felt the overwhelming answer to my prayer: My granddaughter’s church was the true church.
I heard him speak his testimony daily for months. As one of his sons has stated, no one can listen to Rick bare his testimony and NOT believe.
Within me, I kept a part of his testimony that only he and I were aware of. I had felt his struggles with the commandments. I had been one of the very tools that Satan used against him.
As my pre-baptismal lessons began, I began to comprehend just who I had been to him. I started to feel the pain of repentance and my contrition was immense, as the sins I had committed against the friend I loved with all my heart became apparent to me. My eyes were being opened, and I was disgusted what I beheld.
I apologized to him, and to his father. I wanted to apologize to each of his children for even the way in which I had looked at him. I just hadn’t understood before this spring. Before I studied the commandments for myself, I didn’t know just how wrong I had been.
He didn’t ever steer me away from the church. In fact, when I went out to explore the country, he told me if ever I needed anything I could always go to The Church. But I fought against it. At that time, it was his “religion” that had kept us from being a couple.
In my immature mind, God had told me “no”, and I was a rebellious child screaming “WHY NOT?!?!?!” and kicking and screaming. It took me a few years to calm down from that tantrum and listen to what God was trying to tell me.
As I traveled the country, I received many reminders of the church. I have told the story of Temples at every “wrong turn” as being “stalked by Christ“. He was reminding me that He would be there when I was ready. And He was.
Through the last three years, Rick was there for me as well. Through texts and calls and late-night talks, he would tell me stories of his and his pioneer ancestors that inspired my further trust in God.
I now understand that he was sharing his ancestors’ testimonies.
Those testimonies of Zera Pulsipher, and that of Clarance Larsen, both Seventies. He was sharing that he understood God.
But Rick remained away from the church, as I took the covenant of Baptism.
The day I was confirmed as a member of The Church, we talked on the phone for the first time in weeks. As I progressed in my spiritual journey, in my scripture reading as well as my involvement in The Church; our communication grew more frequent once again.
This culminated in our being in a ward meetinghouse together last week. Where, among a few gathered sisters and members of the Brethren, I heard the man I call my best friend call me his lifeline and share his testimony of his return to The Church.
I thank God for the friendship of this man I can now call Brother Larsen.
Only God understands the complicated people that we all are, and to each of us He grants us the guides we need and those we can help.
I thank God for every one of the gifts He has granted upon me. Some of those have been delivered through my best friend, Richard, and the Larsen family.
With the touch
of his forehead
he opened my
heart to break it
and claimed my soul
For Our Heavenly Father.
(note: this was written and published with Brother Larsen’s permission)